Sara Recommends!

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Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) By Seanan McGuire Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780765385505
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Tordotcom - April 5th, 2016

I feel like it took me a long time to find this book (published in 2016) and now I TREMBLE at the thought that I might never have found it – this is one of those books that simply makes your life better.

McGuire pulls every heartstring of anyone who’s ever loved the portal worlds of C.S. Lewis and Lewis Carroll, magical schools, the grittiness of the Miss Peregrine’s and A Discovery of Witches series, and those first childhood reading experiences of being completely transported. But this is not a kids’ book - perhaps more than any book I can remember, Every Heart A Doorway gave me the adult version of the particular magic of childhood reading.

And such a fun premise to the series – they can technically be read as standalones, but book 1 really sets the scene for the world and the characters, and then each subsequent book dives deeper into each character’s story and the portal worlds introduced in book 1.  

A many-noted delectation!

- Sara


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One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw By Witold Rybczynski Cover Image
$14.00
ISBN: 9780684867304
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Scribner - September 11th, 2001

Yes, it’s really a book about screws, and it’s WONDERFUL. Born of a prompt from the New Yorker to “write an essay on the best tool of the past thousand years,” Rybczynski’s slim volume is chock full of fascinating anecdotes, unusual histories, and helpful illustrations.

If you like accessing history through creative and unusual lenses you’ll enjoy this – and it’s a great gift for any carpenters, historians, essayists, architects, or niche interest-ers in your life.  (Also a great companion piece to Rybczynski’s book Home and Bill Bryson’s At Home, two chronicles of the idea of “home” and “house” through time.)

- Sara


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Out from Boneville: A Graphic Novel (BONE #1): Out From Boneville By Jeff Smith, Jeff Smith (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Jeff Smith, Jeff Smith (Illustrator)
$12.99
ISBN: 9780439706407
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Published: Graphix - February 1st, 2005

This series has won 41 national and international awards, including 10 Eisners and 11 Harveys (and incidentally has also been one of the most commonly challenged books in American libraries).

Bone encapsulates the best of every hero’s journey you’ve ever read, chock full of adventure, danger, betrayal, love – dragons! – intrigue, strange lands, and just – all the things that there are to love about epic adventures.

For fans of Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield, Phoebe and Her Unicorn, and Peanuts; these books are fun and accessible for a range of ages.

  - Sara


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The Woman in White By Wilkie Collins, Matthew Sweet (Editor), Matthew Sweet (Introduction by), Matthew Sweet (Notes by) Cover Image
By Wilkie Collins, Matthew Sweet (Editor), Matthew Sweet (Introduction by), Matthew Sweet (Notes by)
$11.00
ISBN: 9780141439617
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Published: Penguin Classics - April 29th, 2003

Incentive enough to read this classic is that ol’ stick-in-the-mud Edward Bulwer-Lytton described it as “great trash” when it first appeared in 1859. This is one of those 19C novels that first appeared in weekly installments, which means it comes with dozens of cliffhangers. A perfect wintertime treat for anyone looking for mysteries, thrills, and psychosis shrouded in London fog.

I also love to trot out the “classics” that were their day’s BookTok/mass market stars – anyone who wants to carry around a Penguin Classic but who sniffs at bestsellers and anything with a book club sticker on it should consider that The Woman in White launched merchandise, baby names, and a swarm of imitators. Collins also helped launch the “sensation fiction” genre; one contemporary critic described such novels as "extremely provocative of that sensation in the palate and throat which is a premonitory symptom of nausea.” Just goes to show, don’t let the Bulwer-Lyttons get you down, read what you like - someone might be toting it around in a hundred years as a badge of honor.

This one’s good fun!

- Sara


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A Tale Dark & Grimm By Adam Gidwitz, Hugh D'Andrade (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Adam Gidwitz, Hugh D'Andrade (Illustrator)
$8.99
ISBN: 9780142419670
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Published: Dutton Books for Young Readers - August 18th, 2011

            Adam Gidwitz is a kid favorite for a reason: his books are funny, adventurous, exciting, and in this case SCARY. No Disneyfied fairy tales here, these are the real deal, blood and guts included. Here we have some original Grimm tales with a twist, as the story centers on familiar Hansel and Gretel actually walking out of their own story and into eight other classic tales.

            This would make a fantastic family read aloud for folklore enthusiasts. These books are also great for any reluctant readers who might be especially drawn to horror. The gore in this book is no joke, but Gidwitz has given us a narrator who warns us ahead of time when we’re about to encounter the particularly nasty bits, so the maybe squeamish or hesitant can still give these a try with confidence.   

- Sara


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The Cruel Prince (The Folk of the Air #1) By Holly Black Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9780316310314
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Published: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers - December 4th, 2018

A dark delight from the prolific Holly Black, this trilogy is an absolute feast. Humans raised in faerieland? þ   

Glittering court extravagance and political intrigue? þþ

Brooding princes? þ  

A fierce and capable heroine? þ

          This book/series is great for anyone who wants to be dropped right into the action and be carried along on a nonstop ride of treachery, deceit, and gut-wrenching love through three books (and a post-series collection of stories, How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, AND a series sequel duology starting in January 2023 with The Stolen Heir!). Scrumptious and bloody.

- Sara


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Far from the Madding Crowd By Thomas Hardy, Rosemarie Morgan (Introduction by), Rosemarie Morgan (Notes by), Shannon Russell (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Thomas Hardy, Rosemarie Morgan (Introduction by), Rosemarie Morgan (Notes by), Shannon Russell (Introduction by)
$10.00
ISBN: 9780141439655
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Published: Penguin Classics - April 29th, 2003

One of my all-time favorites for big feelings, gripping drama, sweeping landscapes, and ~romance~ (Gabriel Oak 4ever). Hardy’s evocations of love and landscape are some of my favorites in 19C British lit (and trend a bit lighter here than in his later novels where his gloom & doom really set in).

Many readers and reviewers have criticized the main character, Bathsheba Everdene, for being too proud/vain/bold/assertive/etc. in a move that at this point we’re all too familiar with when it comes to female main characters. Consider those traits another tick in the pros column for what makes this 1874 novel worth your time.

And if we’re talking film adaptations (which of course we are with this ilk), my favorite by far is the 1998 PBS number with Paloma Baeza.

- Sara


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The Canterbury Tales By Geoffrey Chaucer, Nevill Coghill (Translated by), Nevill Coghill (Introduction by), Nevill Coghill (Notes by) Cover Image
By Geoffrey Chaucer, Nevill Coghill (Translated by), Nevill Coghill (Introduction by), Nevill Coghill (Notes by)
$11.00
ISBN: 9780140424386
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Published: Penguin Classics - February 4th, 2003

I’m not sure anyone needs my recommendation in order to pick up The Canterbury Tales, so just consider this a reminder of how fantastic and fun this book is.

Nevill Coghill’s translation is accessible and jaunty, preserving the heart and humor of the original Middle English. (Coghill translated both the editions we sell in the store – the trusty Penguin paperback for initiates and casual reading, and the lovely clothbound for bookshelf aesthetes and gifting.)

Pro tip for get-togethers: depending on your goals and your milieux, whipping out your Chaucer and launching a group fireside read aloud will either catapult you to the top of your social strata or ensure that you never have to attend such an event again.

- Sara


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Mudlark: In Search of London's Past Along the River Thames By Lara Maiklem Cover Image
$17.95
ISBN: 9781324090724
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Published: Liveright - June 8th, 2021

If I hadn’t already bought a metal detector after watching BBC’s Detectorists, I would’ve bought one after reading Lara Maiklem’s fascinating Mudlark. Every page of this book had me uttering a disbelieving “Whaaaaat!” and itching to get outside. The Thames looms large in a lot of the fiction and nonfiction I choose to read, and Maiklem’s lens showed me a river and range of worlds I’ve never encountered before.

A perfect read – or gift – for anyone who enjoys niche oddities and creative explorations of history.

- Sara


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The Priory of the Orange Tree (The Roots of Chaos) By Samantha Shannon Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9781635570304
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Published: Bloomsbury Publishing - February 18th, 2020

An 800+-page swoonfest. Big ideas, big feelings, big geography – the immense frame of this book supports the substance, and vice versa, which isn’t always the case with these epic undertakings.

Shannon is as good with details as she is with scope, each a buoy to the other rather than a weight. Her world is my favorite kind of mix of history, myth, and magic – action and romance well-balanced (and plenty of both).

Characters! Let me tell you ‘bout my best friend(s), basically…Female characters front and center here, characters I would fight for and fall on my sword for.

The perfect companion for a stretch of deep winter days. Book 2 (prequel) coming February 2023!

- Sara


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Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings By Neil Price Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781541601116
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Published: Basic Books - September 13th, 2022

I like to pair my historical fiction/historical fantasy with nonfiction of the relevant worlds and time periods, and Children of Ash and Elm is far and away my pick to pair with anything Viking-esque (it’s enriched my reading of Bernard Cornwell, Guy Gavriel Kay, and John Gwynne, to name a few).

Names and dates there are aplenty, but Price also pulls off the tricky feat of animating the figures and histories from the page. Not only that, but he also compellingly redirects many of our preconceived and entrenched notions of who the Vikings were, how they behaved, and what their motivations were (for a similar treatment of the European Middle Ages, try The Bright Ages by Matthew Gabriele and David M. Perry).

Excellent!

- Sara


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The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm By Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm, Jack Zipes (Editor) Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780691160597
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Published: Princeton University Press - October 19th, 2014

As with anything foundational, the more familiar you are with the original the more you see its influence and the way it shapes and guides the world around you. There’s a reason fairy tale retellings seem to always be “having a moment” – they are the marrow, sinew, and bone of so much of what we experience and how we connect.

Among the hills I will die on include the one labeled “reading fairy tales leads to a better life.” Familiarity with fairy tales enriches every reading experience, and it is FUN to recognize the stories out in the world and to appreciate how they’re being stretched and to consider what commentaries they’re offering.

Also, even if you’re a fairy tale aficionado, there are 156 stories in this collection, so settle in for some new treats as well. Great annotations from Zipes, deliciously creepy illustrations from Andrea Dezsö, this volume is a gem – and a great gift!

- Sara


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Elric of Melniboné: The Elric Saga Part 1 (Elric Saga, The #1) By Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman (Foreword by) Cover Image
By Michael Moorcock, Neil Gaiman (Foreword by)
$29.99
ISBN: 9781534445680
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Published: Gallery / Saga Press - February 15th, 2022

 Another one of those foundational fantasy texts that either you’re already well versed in or you’ve never heard of…

BUT either way this is Volume 1 of the definitive collection of the Elric stories, and get ready to meet your new favorite antihero (think Raistlin in Dragonlance).

This series is also a great tie-in to the House of the Dragon currents surrounding us right now (Elric looks like he could be a Targaryen, and the incestuous love triangle will ring familiar to any GOT/HOtD fans).

There’s a reason I’m drawing so many parallels and comparisons – Moorcock is one of those “fantasy authors’ authors,” and his tropes permeate the genre and cross over into video games, comics, music, and RPGs.

These stories are sweeping, nerve wracking, tragic, and will sweep you high and reduce you low.  Bon voyage!

- Sara


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Aspects By John M. Ford, Neil Gaiman (Introduction by) Cover Image
By John M. Ford, Neil Gaiman (Introduction by)
$26.99
ISBN: 9781250269034
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Published: Tor Books - April 5th, 2022

A brilliant adventure by the best fantasy writer you’re not reading. Though this story is unfinished (Ford was still working on it at the time of his death in 2006) it is still a great place to start with Ford if you’re new to his writing, as it will whet your appetite and launch you into the rest of his work (head next to The Dragon Waiting for top notch historical fiction fantasy).

I continue to try to find words other than “immersive” to describe the fantasy writing I love best, but my gosh is Aspects truly that! Ford conjures a 3D world from the first page, and his web of detail will have you veritably living in his steampunkish world. Political intrigue and intricacies abound!

A great gift for the fantasy lover in your life.

- Sara


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The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep: Voices from the Donner Party By Allan Wolf Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781536228199
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Published: Candlewick - October 18th, 2022

I’m sorry, what?! 400 pages of jaw-dropping poetry, prose, prayers, and back matter. This is a stunning fictionalized consideration of the Donner Party, and I wish Allan Wolf could give this treatment to everything under the sun (besides the Titanic, which he did also masterfully – in 2011 with The Watch that Ends the Night).

            Narrated by Hunger, with chapters switching perspectives among the Donner Party members (including the oxen, omg), The Snow Fell Three Graves Deep is unlike any reading experience I’ve ever had. I’m unapologetically purple prose-y about this book - I felt completely submerged in this world and these characters and was truly moved beyond words by the creativity and humanity in Wolf’s accounting.

Deeply moving, utterly nerve wracking, sublime historical fiction.

- Sara


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Garlic and the Vampire By Bree Paulsen, Bree Paulsen (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Bree Paulsen, Bree Paulsen (Illustrator)
$12.99
ISBN: 9780062995087
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Quill Tree Books - September 28th, 2021

This book is so sweet that it made me want to give up eating vegetables. HOW could I possibly cook and eat stalwart Carrot, helpful Tomato, dependable Pumpkin, shy Turnip, or even cranky pants Celery?

This graphic novel is a perfect combination of all of its parts – the artwork and the writing and the storyline mesh seamlessly and create a world where fear and anxiety and conflict are super real but the help and support of friends and community and the nurturing of one’s inner resources prove just as real, which is a really nice world for readers of any age to visit.

I also love a story that dismantles the fears and prejudices around classic monster tropes, and the final panels in this story do that perfectly. How many times have I used the word “perfect”? Is this a perfect book?!

- Sara


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What Moves the Dead By T. Kingfisher Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781250830753
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Published: Tor Nightfire - July 12th, 2022

 

T. Kingfisher could write a nutrition facts label for a bottle of water and I’d be entranced; a Poe story in her hands is a marvel. Like the best retellings, Kingfisher’s alterations preserve and stretch the original story – like packing a wound! That’s how I think of this book – Poe’s original guts stretched open and filled with fungus (if that sounds gross then brace yourself, What Moves the Dead is one disgusting passage after another, I love it). (Also, Grace and I have both been absolutely HAUNTED by mushrooms after reading this – this book sinks under your skin and permeates your world long after you put it down.) Kingfisher’s characters are as gripping as her setting is eerie – Angus and Eugenia Potter both win best supporting actor/actress – and the way she can ratchet up tension along 150 pages is unparalleled. Anyway, this book is so good, a must-read for anyone with Gothic/body horror/classic retelling inclinations and anyone who wants to be genuinely spooked.

- Sara


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Shadowlands: A Journey Through Britain's Lost Cities and Vanished Villages By Matthew Green Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780393635348
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Published: W. W. Norton & Company - July 19th, 2022

A haunting travelogue of places you can never visit and people you can never meet. Green disrupts our linear histories with reminders of all the forks in the road and bends in the river, all the could-have-beens and almost-weres. This book is full of beautiful tributes to the past that can’t be separated from their sobering implications for our current trajectories.

But this book is also more fun than I’m making it sound – full of fascinating histories and memorable characters both familiar and new - “Give me a tour through epic loss but make it SPARKLE!”

- Sara


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The Quincunx: A Novel By Charles Palliser Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780345371133
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Published: Ballantine Books - November 27th, 1990

The Pepe Silvia meme from It’s Always Sunny? That’s you reading this book. This story is for the close readers, the note takers, those who think they can solve the mystery and spot the plot twists. Prone to post-its? This book has 800 pages and you’ll have 800+ post-its bristling out by the end. And when you do make it to the end, borne along swiftly by Palliser’s rollicking Dickensian narrative, you’ll want to have your pencils sharpened and your highlighters poised for the second go round because THAT ENDING will have you gobsmacked at how much you missed.

A perfect winter read to pair with firesides, steaming mugs, and cats in your lap (I imagine there was a real spate of cats named Fortisquince and Digweed after this was published…).

- Sara


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Snow White Learns Witchcraft: Stories and Poems By Theodora Goss, Jane Yolen (Introduction by) Cover Image
By Theodora Goss, Jane Yolen (Introduction by)
$15.95
ISBN: 9781732644007
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Published: Mythic Delirium Books - February 5th, 2019

This collection of fairytale retellings has burrowed its way in more than almost any other I can remember. It haunts me in the best ways, and I find the images and language from the stories and poems cropping up in my mind all the time.

Others have recommended reading this in one go, front to back, but I found this the perfect book to savor and return to, to pick morsels from at random and then reread concurrently (as there are themes and sequences and characters that build sequentially throughout the discrete poems and stories). Reading it that way made me feel like I was participating in Goss’s reworking of the warp and weft of these stores.

Delicious!  

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Civil War of Amos Abernathy By Michael Leali Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780063119864
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Published: HarperCollins - June 7th, 2022

A fantastic book about standing up for yourself, asking hard questions, and examining the world around you.

13yo Amos works at a living history museum in Missouri; Amos is gay, his best friend Chloe is Black, and Amos’s crush, Ben, is questioning his identity. The three of them realize that queer folks, Black people, and women are largely missing from the depictions of 19th century life at the museum, and Amos goes looking for information, particularly about local queer people who lived during the Civil War era. He finds information about Albert D.J. Cashier, who was assigned female at birth but lived as a man throughout his life and fought in the Civil War (and who is an actual historical figure) and Amos begins writing letters to Albert as a way of connecting to and seeing himself in the past.

Amos, Chloe, and Ben want to bring this history to light at the living history museum and encounter some resistance from the community, culminating in a scene that sent fireworks through me – inspiring, motivating, heartwarming, all the feels.

This book does a fantastic job of encouraging kids to ask questions about the world and about the things they’re taught and giving them language to think about and interrogate who writes our histories and why.

This book is geared toward ages 8-12, but I always encourage adults to spend more time with middle grade books – and this one is wonderful.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Phoebe and Her Unicorn By Dana Simpson Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781449446208
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Published: Andrews McMeel Publishing - September 2nd, 2014

Belongs on any shelf that includes Calvin and Hobbes!

Any time I’ve recommended this book to a kid, the whole family has ended up reading the series together (15 books, so if this one’s a hit you’re good for a while).

It’s worth the purchase price alone to meet Marigold Heavenly Nostrils…

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Sagas of the Icelanders By Jane Smiley Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780141000039
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Published: Penguin - February 24th, 2005

If you’re already familiar with Icelandic sagas, then I’ll just say that this is the definitive copy of a great collection.

If you’re unfamiliar, then buckle up for the wild ride you’ll have through the world of these stories. Bracing, brutal, tender – Leif Eriksson like you’ve never seen him before - soaring, haunting, hilarious.

Pair this with Children of Ash and Elm by Neil Price for some nonfiction context, or The Sea Road by Margaret Elphinstone for a fictional exploration.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Check, Please! Book 1: # Hockey By Ngozi Ukazu Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250177964
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Published: First Second - September 18th, 2018

Pie-baking, figure-skating, small-town-Georgia-boy Bitty is in my Adorbs Narrators Hall of Fame. You feel like you know him like you feel like you know your favorite social media personality – literally: the tweets at the very end of the book are a scrollable delight.

I love this book for being a feel-good sports story that’s heavy on the jock culture without being heavy on any homophobia.

Full of new-adult drama that’s balanced with nuanced character development, this is a tasty bake!

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Merciful Crow (The Merciful Crow Series #1) By Margaret Owen Cover Image
$10.99
ISBN: 9781250250940
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Published: Square Fish - August 18th, 2020

For anyone who has been chasing the rush of Six of Crows, here’s your next obsession! Exceptional worldbuilding and unique magic systems, characters you can really get behind and dazzling imagery. There’s an urgency to the writing that casts a meditative spell and holds you fast – I couldn’t put this one down. 

Sara, Longfellow Books


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She Who Became the Sun (The Radiant Emperor Duology #1) By Shelley Parker-Chan Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250621818
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Published: Tor Books - June 28th, 2022

When I finished this book, I didn’t know what day it was, what year it was, couldn’t tell you my own name. The kind of book that leaves you dazed for days. A grimdark historical fantasy that pulls no punches when it comes to the dregs of the human spirit, a queer reimagining of Mongol-ruled China that seethes with political and military intrigue. Remember to breathe and unclench your jaw as you’re reading this one (unless your jaw is already on the floor). 

Sara, Longfellow Books


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One Last Stop By Casey McQuiston Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9781250244499
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Published: St. Martin's Griffin - June 1st, 2021

I’m just here to quickly say that this much-hyped books DELIVERS – my gosh, it delivers. Please forward my mail to the Q train, because once I’m finished full-body sobbing in love over this book I will be taking up permanent residence on the NY subway (an indication that perhaps I missed the point of this story but we’ll table that for now). Two of the highlights for me are the peeks into the fight for gay rights in the 1970’s, and the fact that 5 people share a small Brooklyn apartment with zero roommate conflict or tension. It’s just exactly the antidote to everything that I needed.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Lore Olympus: Volume One By Rachel Smythe Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9780593356074
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Published: Random House Worlds - November 2nd, 2021

The Real Housewives but make it Greek mythology (and I say that without derision). Thousands of years of Hades & Persephone stories have not prepared you for Rachel Smythe’s electrifying rendition; dazzling artwork and intricate characterizations, laugh-out-loud moments and gut punches of life and love. You’ll need more of this immediately – try Punderworld by Linda Sejic (another WEBTOON phenom) and look out for Lore Olympus Volume 2 in July 2022!

Sara, Longfellow Books


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In the Woods: A Novel (Dublin Murder Squad #1) By Tana French Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9780143113492
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Published: Penguin Books - May 27th, 2008

These books got me out of a years-long reading slump. The perfect combination of propulsive writing, twisty plots, and dimensional characters. I devoured this series and then the rest of French’s books – The Likeness is the standout for me. I usually consume mysteries exclusively during the winter months, but these also make excellent beach reads.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Blacktongue Thief By Christopher Buehlman Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9781250799975
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Published: Tor Books - May 10th, 2022

In a word: rollicking.

In a few words: if Discworld and D&D had a baby…

Every single page of this book is a delight, from the clever sentence structure and inventive turns of phrase to the characters’ personalities and the rich worldbuilding, all buoyed by one of the most affably sardonic, foul-mouthed narrators I’ve come across.

I love a well-worn fantasy trope as much as the next enthusiast, and I don’t necessarily need someone to make the genre seem shiny and new, but what Buehlman does here through his artful infusion of dark humor and joy into this world is remind me why I love mischievous thieves, cantankerous goblins, and a Quest along a Road.

Pair this with The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and Rickety Stitch by Ben Costa, or Maine writer Josh Gauthier’s Land of Outcasts.

Treat yourself to the audiobook version as well - Buehlman is a comedian and an experienced renaissance reenactor and his narration is top notch.  

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Gideon the Ninth (The Locked Tomb Series #1) By Tamsyn Muir Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250313188
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Published: Tordotcom - July 14th, 2020

If you’re into lesbian dark magic swordplay space operas featuring skeletons and reanimated corpses, then welcome home to the Locked Tomb (and we should probably be friends).

This was a noisy reading experience for me – pretty much every page had me gasping, laughing, groaning, or crying. The sarcasm is so heavy that I was worried it would fall flat pretty quickly, but Muir sustains the tone throughout in a way that makes the characters’ acerbity endearing and truly funny. So much ‘tude from everyone in this book.

The framework of this story might seem familiar enough – noble houses with different powers competing for positions of honor through a set of mysterious challenges – but I promise you’ve never been in a world quite like this one. Is it sci-fi or fantasy or horror or romance or comedy? It is, yes!

This book is so weird and funny and dark and gross that I was not prepared for the full-on HEARTBREAK I experienced at the end.

So, so good.  

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The City of Brass: A Novel (The Daevabad Trilogy) By S. A. Chakraborty Cover Image
$18.99
ISBN: 9780062678119
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Published: Harper Voyager - July 3rd, 2018

Rich like a chocolate fountain, luxurious like a face full of lilacs, enveloping like a warm blanket on a chilly evening – sub in whatever is rich, luxurious, and enveloping for you because Chakraborty will Transport you with a capital T.

This book superbly blends history and fantasy, action and detail, magic and daily humdrum life, and the characters leap off the page – even the minor ones, maybe especially the minor ones. Nahri and Dara live rent-free in my head, but so do Yaqub and Saffiyeh, who have between them just a few pages (and one of whom is not even alive during the events of the book).

There’s no crack or crevice in this book that isn’t exploding with life and magic and intrigue – you’ll be as riveted by the descriptions of market stalls and dust clouds as you are by the epic battles of ghouls and mythical beings.

Do yourself a favor and take a break from epic fantasy a la Medieval Europe and take a seat at this Middle Eastern smorgasbord.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Dress Coded By Carrie Firestone Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9781984816450
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers - May 17th, 2022

My former middle school students read this book and immediately came to talk to me about their experiences being dress coded at school. They scheduled a meeting with the Principal and helped edit the relevant section in the school’s student handbook. Thank you, Carrie Firestone! Another book that had a similar effect: Go With the Flow by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann (young adult graphic novel).

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Go with the Flow By Karen Schneemann, Lily Williams Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781250143174
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Published: First Second - January 14th, 2020

My former middle school students read this book and immediately came to talk to me about the availability of menstrual products at our school. They collaborated with the school nurse and guidance counselor to make it easier for students to access period resources and products. Thank you, Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann! Another book that had a similar effect: Dress Coded by Carrie Firestone (middle grade fiction).

Sara, Longfellow Books


Dry By Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781481481977
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Published: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers - September 3rd, 2019

A perennial read-aloud favorite with my 8th graders, this story is gripping and evocative, transporting you to the center of the action and conflict. This book was timely when it was published in 2018, and unfortunately becomes more so every year.

The drought in Alyssa’s California community has gotten so bad - even after long periods of strict rationing - that the taps run dry entirely. Suddenly Alyssa and her family are thrown into survival mode, and when her parents disappear, she has to start making life-or-death decisions for herself and her brother.

A gripping dystopian novel that sparks important questions and discussions.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Prairie Lotus By Linda Sue Park Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9780358454632
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Published: Clarion Books - March 22nd, 2022

As a kid did I have a monthly subscription to The Little House on the Prairie VHS tapes? Did I visit living history museums and dress up like a pioneer and pretend to work there? Yes, yes I did. I have lived and breathed romanticized pioneer life for a long time, and I am so glad that Prairie Lotus exists. It expands upon and interrogates the familiar and beloved facets of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories and gives us a new frontier heroine in Hanna, a half-Chinese girl living with her white father in 1880’s Dakota Territory.

Read this and The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich along with the original Little House series for a richer fictional foray into this historical period.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Greenglass House: A Winter and Holiday Book for Kids By Kate Milford, Jaime Zollars (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Kate Milford, Jaime Zollars (Illustrator)
$8.99
ISBN: 9780544540286
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Published: Clarion Books - November 1st, 2016

For fans of The Mysterious Benedict Society and Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.

 

Greenglass House is my favorite of the mystery-puzzle-whodunit-family secrets-mysterious strangers-treasure hunt lot; atmospheric, lovable characters, depth of feeling, and just a really good mystery!

For a YA version of this kind, try The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynne Barnes (ages 13-17).

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Tea Dragon Society By K. O'Neill, K. O'Neill (Illustrator) Cover Image
By K. O'Neill, K. O'Neill (Illustrator)
$9.99
ISBN: 9781620107379
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Published: Oni Press - June 16th, 2020

Move over, Pokémon! There are some new adorable powerful creatures in town: tea dragons. This is the gentlest, sweetest, most huggable (?) series; the kinds of books that quiet your mind, fill your heart, and inspire countless themed parties afterwards. 

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Year of the Reaper By Makiia Lucier Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9780358272090
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Published: Clarion Books - November 9th, 2021

My favorite YA fantasy read of 2022 (so far). This book covers a lot of ground – literally, the characters are constantly moving around – and juggles many plot points and character arcs and does it all with aplomb.

Everything in this story has a bleak veneer – the plague-ravaged countryside and cities, the deeply scarred and traumatized characters, the brutality of freshly post-war life, but just below the surface of it all pulses tentative hope and grace that the characters try to nurture in themselves and each other. 

The details in the world-building and the characters’ personalities really make this one stand out from the deluge of YA fantasy out there. The laugh-out-loud moments really catch you off guard and make the rest even more poignant.

If you’re looking for a quick, breathless read steeped in political intrigue and dark fantasy tropes, give this a try. 

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Pax By Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Sara Pennypacker, Jon Klassen (Illustrator)
$8.99
ISBN: 9780062377029
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Published: Balzer + Bray - April 2nd, 2019

An unusual recommendation in that I have not read this book (though I’m a big fan of Pennypacker’s Clementine series and Here in the Real World); I’m sharing with you that dozens of former elementary and middle school students have reported to me over the years that this is their favorite book, and often when I encountered a student struggling to find a book that they enjoyed or that “clicked” for them, this book was the winner.

Who better to recommend a book to kids than other kids!

Sara, Longfellow Books (and her former students!)


Carry On: Bookshelf Edition (Simon Snow Trilogy #1) By Rainbow Rowell Cover Image
$19.99
ISBN: 9781250806918
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Wednesday Books - July 6th, 2021

Harry Potter but make it gay teenagers! (And keep them British.) This series is a lot of fun and keeps the cursed-orphan-magical-school-parallel-worlds train chugging along. It was really hard to say goodbye to these characters and this world – for all its familiarity it carved its own niche into my wizard-loving heart for sure.

I will ship Simon and Baz forever!

Sara, Longfellow Books


She Drives Me Crazy By Kelly Quindlen Cover Image
$17.99
ISBN: 9781250209153
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Roaring Brook Press - April 20th, 2021

Really fun queer teen enemies-to-lovers & fake dating, rife with sports and fun families and dry humor. The emotional development of the main character, Scottie, is especially satisfying, and Irene is a perfect example of a teenage girl who is constantly underestimated and misunderstood based on her looks and her interests. 

The setting is a small town in Georgia (“Grandma Earl, GA” = best town name ever), and the teens’ queerness is mostly incidental (no raging parents, no bullying at school, etc.). A super satisfying rom-com that will keep you hooked and make you think – and there are plenty of duos to ship along the way! 

For more fake dating schemes try Frankly in Love by David Yoon, 10 Things I Hate About Pinky by Sandhya Menon, and of course To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han.

Sara, Longfellow Books


The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor By Shaenon K. Garrity, Christopher Baldwin (Illustrator) Cover Image
$14.99
ISBN: 9781534460867
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Published: Margaret K. McElderry Books - July 20th, 2021

This sci-fi Jane Eyre-esque mashup is truly for anyone who enjoys a good parody of the things they love. Haley is all of us who have clutched our tattered copies of Wuthering Heights as we trespass upon ruined buildings in the rain (I know I’m not the only one…).

This is such a fun and funny romp through gothic tropes, complete with creepy housekeeper and pining young lords, and thank goodness Haley is at the helm: with the perfect blend of enthusiasm and practicality, she is a superhero for gothic nerds everywhere.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Six of Crows By Leigh Bardugo Cover Image
$11.99
ISBN: 9781250076960
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Published: Square Fish - February 6th, 2018

This duology counts among the most memorable reading experiences I’ve ever had, and I would give a lot to be able to read them again for the first time. I laughed, I cried, I was on the edge of my seat – I love these characters fiercely.

Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy gets all the hype that comes with the 2021 Netflix show, but I find the Crows duology to be the best of the Grishaverse. The pacing is fast but the plot remains intricate and the worldbuilding immersive. You’ll recognize echoes in this fantasy world of Russia, China, Scandinavia, Ireland, and the Netherlands and hints of Renaissance Europe and the industrial age as the backdrop for the ensemble cast of characters taking on the heist of a lifetime.

The characters are really what make this so special. Each chapter rotates among the main characters’ perspectives, which I don’t always enjoy, but there is not a single character in this book that I don’t want to hear more from. I will never get over Kaz, Inej, Nina, Jesper, Matthias, and Wylan. The misfit teenage criminals chosen family of my dreams!

Bardugo will leave a Ketterdam-shaped hole in your heart with this one.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise By Dan Gemeinhart Cover Image
$8.99
ISBN: 9781250233615
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Published: Square Fish - July 21st, 2020

This book stretched my heart in all directions – truly heartwarming, full of memorable characters and adventures, a great story to read aloud. Pulls no punches, covers heavy topics (including death, mental illness, and poverty), but handles them authentically and tenderly.

Sara, Longfellow Books


Snapdragon By Kat Leyh Cover Image
$12.99
ISBN: 9781250171115
Availability: On Our Shelves Now: Please call ahead to be sure inventory is not being held for other customers.
Published: First Second - February 4th, 2020

My favorite book of 2020! I reread this immediately upon finishing it because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Snap (and her baby opossums) or Jacks (and her crocs) or the tender magic of this heartwarming and beautiful story. (You might recognize Leyh’s artwork from the Lumberjanes series.) You will come away from this book with a renewed sense of wonder in the natural world and appreciation for the chosen family in your life. And you’ll never look at roadkill the same way ever again!

Sara, Longfellow Books


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Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster By Jonathan Auxier Cover Image
$9.99
ISBN: 9781419737022
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Published: Amulet Paperbacks - May 5th, 2020

I cannot recommend this book highly enough! Historical fantasy at its absolute best. An exhilarating blend of history, fantasy, and mythology, fans of Auxier (The Night Gardener, Peter Nimble series) will not be disappointed, and those new to his work will be hooked.

Auxier confronts head-on the horrors of child labor in Victorian London and the broader class issues of the time, but with his trademark Dickensian whimsy he fills the story with magic, longing, and wonder. Your heart will be several sizes bigger after reading this book.

Sara, Longfellow Books


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The Dark Lord Clementine By Sarah Jean Horwitz Cover Image
$8.95
ISBN: 9781643751337
Availability: Not in stock, usually ships to store in 1-5 Days
Published: Algonquin Young Readers - April 20th, 2021

The funniest middle grade book I’ve read in a long time – grown-ups, you’ll want to read this one too (family read aloud, anyone?). There are layers to the wordplay and humor, with something for everyone in this quirky quest adventure. Don’t be fooled by the slapstick surface here though, underneath is a really tender and moving exploration of family dynamics, friendships, prejudice, and homecoming. Magic and mayhem and heart aplenty!

Sara, Longfellow Books